Independence of Research and Conflicts of Interest Policies

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is committed to the highest standards of academic quality and credibility for our research procedures and products. We ensure these standards through rigorous internal review, peer review, and a transparent process for selecting and undertaking research projects.

While the credibility of the research any organization produces should stand on the quality and reliability of that research alone, other protocols or precautions are often necessary. Mercatus strictly adheres to the following policies:

  • The Mercatus Center engages in research and educational activities that advance the mission of the organization. This includes research and educational activities that may run counter to the opinions and interests of the organizations and individuals providing financial support to Mercatus.
  • Endeavoring to maintain a broad and diverse base of support, Mercatus accepts financial support from numerous sources for research and educational activities that further its mission. All Mercatus work product must be capable of withstanding rigorous peer review of its quality and reliability. Therefore, Mercatus financial supporters have absolutely no influence or control over the research design, methodology, analysis, or findings of Mercatus research projects, nor do they have influence or control over the content of educational programs. Offers of financial support predicated on such expectations are not accepted.
  • The Mercatus Center will not engage in research or educational activities that are cosponsored with nonacademic organizations that support Mercatus financially.
    • To ensure that supporters understand our commitment to independent research, the following paragraph will be furnished to all organizations that provide or are considering providing Mercatus with financial support:
      • The Mercatus Center is committed to the highest standards of academic quality and credibility, and to ensuring that our work stands up to rigorous peer review. Mercatus scholars independently pursue a research agenda and educational activities that advance our mission. Mercatus does not engage in research or educational activities directed or influenced in any way by financial supporters. 
    • This policy and Mercatus practices will be reviewed annually to ensure that Mercatus is in compliance with its provisions and faithful to its intent.

revised June 2017

Peer Review Process

The Mercatus Center is committed to the highest standards of academic quality. All Mercatus Working Papers and Mercatus Research publications are subjected to double-blind peer review before publication. This means that our research is reviewed by two or more anonymous subject-matter experts who scrutinize the strength of argument, methodology, modeling, proof, and review of scholarly literature. 

All other formal research products, such as the Mercatus on Policy Series, policy briefs, data visuals, public interest comments, and testimonies are subject to rigorous internal review by one or more research directors and an independent internal editor.

revised January 2018

Policy Regarding Conflicts of Interest

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and as a university-based research center, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University publishes research that meets rigorous standards of scholarship and seeks to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest.

This statement provides guidelines and procedures for the identification and resolution of real, potential, or apparent financial conflicts of interest that may arise in the course of Mercatus-supported research.

  • An affected person is any author or researcher supported by the Mercatus Center who has a financial interest in the research in question, as defined below.
  • An affected person has a financial interest if the individual has, directly or indirectly, any ownership, investment, or compensation arrangement such that he or she stands to benefit financially from the impact of the research in question, or could stand to benefit in the foreseeable future.
  • The term conflict of interest means any financial interest that could significantly impair the affected person’s objectivity or undermine the academic integrity of the research in question. For a conflict of interest to exist, there must be an existing or clear potential financial interest that may bias or appear to bias the affected person’s research, as for instance might result from a consulting engagement on related topics, although this policy is not restricted to that particular instantiation of a conflict of interest.
  • In connection with any actual or possible conflict of interest, an affected person has a duty to disclose the existence of the financial interest prior to initiating the research in question, or at the earliest opportunity if the conflict was not known before the initiation of the research. The affected person must disclose all material facts to the relevant program director or manager, or to the director of policy research operations, or to the executive director of the Mercatus Center.
  • In order to determine whether a conflict of interest exists, the director of policy research operations, or a designee of the executive director, shall review any disclosures regarding the financial interest of any affected persons who suspect they might have a conflict of interest while working with the Mercatus Center.
  • After exercising due diligence, the director of policy research operations, or a designee of the executive director, shall determine whether a conflict of interest exists, consulting with the executive director when appropriate, or with the Mercatus Center’s legal counsel. If one is found to exist, the Mercatus Center will not pursue the research in question with the affected person. This decision may be made even if there is a strong appearance of a conflict of interest but no actual conflict. If no conflict or relevant appearance of conflict is found, the Mercatus Center will memorialize the decision, and the research in question may proceed accordingly or with appropriate modified terms as agreed to by the affected person.
  • If the director of policy research operations or the executive director has reason to believe an individual failed to disclose an actual or potential conflict of interest, the Mercatus Center will seek corrective action. If a determination is made that the individual did not disclose a possible conflict of interest before initiating the research in question, the Mercatus Center may at its sole discretion terminate the project and sever professional ties with the affected person.
  • In addition to the Mercatus Center’s own requirements, Mercatus requires that all its affiliated scholars adhere to the conflict of interest policies of the journals and outlets in which they publish.

revised June 2017

Mercatus Policy on the Use of AI

Artificial intelligence technologies provide powerful tools for writing, data analysis, and visual arts, but such AI lacks sentience, and therefore cannot think, write, or create independently.

Mercatus staff, researchers, and authors may use AI tools like ChatGPT for experimentation, but along the following guidelines:

  • No confidential or proprietary information, whether organizational or third-party, may be used as input for AI.
  • All AI-generated material, including source citations, must be fact-checked by the author(s) to verify accuracy.
  • AI tools may not be listed as authors or coauthors of a research paper or derivative product. Authors using AI tools in research or writing must transparently disclose its use, including the tool’s name, version number, and developer, and how the tool was employed in the paper’s production. Disclosure could appear in general form on the copyright page or in a section on methodology, or more specifically in a footnote, endnote, or source line for figure or table.
  • Authors must take full responsibility for the content of their manuscript, including portions produced with AI tools, and must fully comply with applicable publication ethics.

Note: This draft policy is based in part on “Authorship and AI tools: COPE position statement,” Committee on Publication Ethics, Portions of this text were drafted using OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3.0,

revised August 2023